Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thank goodness for the little things

At least the Giants had the good grace to collapse early enough in the second-half of the season so that we weren't on pins-and-needles until the bitter end. My gosh, the epic face plants by the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox will be talked about for years. The Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals overcame the largest deficits in playoff history! The Sox had the Orioles down to their final strike with no one on base and lost. The Rays were down 7-0 and won. The Phillies came back in the 9th to tie the Braves and won in extras while the Cards got a shutout from their ace. If the Giants had put us through a September like that (Sox 7-20, Braves 9-18) we'd have gone insane. The Braves lost their last five games! The Sox lost their last eight series! I suppose nothing will ever be worse than watching the Giants lose Game Six in 2002--that still gives me the heebee-jeebees. But the Braves were 8-1/2 games ahead and the Sox were nine up at the start of the month. Imagine if that had been the Giants!

Giants go 11-7 in their final inning which included an eight-game winning streak and a four-game losing streak. The season goes 10-8, 10-8, 9-9, 10-8, 11-7, 11-7, 6-12, 8-10, and 11-7 for a grand total of 86-76. They out-perform their Pythagorean record of 80-82 because Bruce Bochy is a genius or they got to play Colorado (13-5) and San Diego (12-6) a lot. Either reason works for me. The Giants scored 570 runs--total--in 162 games which is one of the "little things" I was talking about (3.52 rpg). Man, that's some feeble offense. The 1985 (62-100) Giants scored 556 runs. The only other seasons that were worse since the team moved west were 1994 (504) and 1981 (427). Those "seasons" only lasted 115 and 111 games apiece. Last year's offensive juggernaut rolled out 697 runs! What mashers!

The 2011 club misses the playoff by four lousy games (Cards finish 90-72) despite the horrible hitting. FOUR GAMES! Just for fun, pick out your four favorite games that they "shoulda won." I'll start. How about Tim Lincecum's four losses to Clayton Kershaw?

Your turn.

--M.C.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MadNumbers

Madison Bumgarner

Stat--NL rank

ERA 3.21--11th
WHIP 1.21--19th
IP 204-2/3--17th
QS 23--T7th
AGS 56--10th
K/9 8.29--12th
K/BB 4.15--6th

FanGraphs has not updated their site to include last night but MadBum was 4th in the NL in FIP (2.73) behind Roy Halladay (2.20), Clayton Kershaw (2.47) and Cliff Lee (2.60). He's 5th (5.3) in WAR. I expect he'll pass Matt Cain (5.4) and finish 4th in that category. I'm not up to speed on the saber-stats tERA and SIERA but our boy is 7th in both. I figure they must be excellent metrics. He was 0-6 at one point this season and 2-9 at another. He finished 13-13, tied for the team lead in wins. He's a beast no matter how you measure it!

Eric Surkamp goes today instead of Cain. The rookies--Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Conor Gillaspie--shined last night. Let's hope the young lefty keeps that going. No matter what happens today the Giants will finish at least four games up on LA and at least 10 games over .500. Like I said before, not bad for the worst offense in baseball.

--M.C.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Never-Ending Vogel-Story

A crisp and efficient Ryan Vogelsong mowed down his favorite club to pitch against (4-0, 0.96 ERA vs. Colorado) and the Giants secured second place with their 85th win. The 34-year old righty goes to arbitration after this season and is a free agent in 2013. He leads the team in ERA (2.71, 4th in the NL) and is tied for the team-high in victories with 13. Not a bad place to be when you go to the bargaining table. FanGraphs rates his season at 2.6 WAR, just behind Shaun Marcum (2.7) and just ahead of Derek Lowe (2.5) for the 23rd spot in the league. The Giants have three guys in the top ten: Matt Cain (5.4, 4th), Madison Bumgarner (5.3, 5th), and Tim Lincecum (4.6, 10th). Only the Phillies can boast better with the 1st, 3rd, and 6th spots. Voglesong is also 21st in the NL in FIP, 22nd in Quality Starts, 10th in Average Game Score, and 23rd in WHIP. Not bad for a fourth or fifth starter.

MadBum goes tonight. He will likely top 200 IP for the season. If Cain goes Wednesday afternoon as scheduled he will likely reach his career high in innings as well.

The Giant wasted one hell of a lot of good pitching this season.

--M.C.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kinda Wimpy Tim

Perhaps I'm being rather over critical, but I'm a little peeved at how Tim Lincecum (13-14, YUCK) lost control of, and then, lost the game.  No big deal since the game was meaningless, but it was a chance for us to regain some dignity.  Yeah right, like that was going to happen this year.

Specifically, I'm disappointed that Tim let the beaning of Justin Upton get to him.  I know it is scary when the helmet is involved and people go down in a heap. And I'm not saying he deserved to get plugged, but Upton crowds the plate and getting hit is part of his game.  I believe that was #18 this year which ranks him third.  Yet it really rattled Tim. Lincecum admitted that it effected his approach for the rest of his mediocre outing.  Anybody else think that is sort of lame for "big time" MLB pitcher?  I know Timmeh isn't Bob Gibson, but we sure could have used some grit from our "ace."

I guess this is a poor time to assess the complicated 2011 Tim Lincecum season. What with me being so pissy and all.  We may have wait until I've regained some composure...how does February sound?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Arizona? Really?

Seriously, Arizona won the title? Of the NL West? Really? Arizona does not inspire me as a playoff team. Not just because I don't think they are in a league with Milwaukee, loaded with sluggers, the Phillies, who have most everything, and either Atlanta or St. Louis (although I don't) but I just can't see them as an inspiration. Arizona Champion of the NL West? That seems less a recognition of an achievement than an indictment of the division.

The Padres, who nearly won the west last year on some mystical, magical pitching, and one hitter, decided that they didn't really need that hitter, so traded him for prospects. They might be good again some day, but maybe their magic pitching was not just what it was last year (actually, it was almost as good, but the results were quite different). They knew they were a last place team going into the season, and they did not surprise themselves.

The Rox figured to be the competition - I thought so a couple months into the season. But once they had a couple key players, like Tulowitsky, get hurt, they decided to trade their ace for some magic beans. Imagine if when Posey went down, ownership said, "Ship out Lincecum for whatever you can get and, by gum, we'll be good again by 2020." Very discouraging to be a Rockie fan.

The doggers were, of course, drastically mis-Manny-ged by their ownership, to the point where they are now owned by MLB. They may be worse next year, if buyers are not found, they may be paralyzed into doing next to nothing, and doing it as cheaply as possible.

The until-recently reigning World Series Champions were beset with injuries, and equally beset with sub-mediocrity when they needed competence. Yet they were in first place, with Posey injured, until they elected to turn in a 10-20 August. Hard to get happy after that, and they didn't. Yeah, I know, they had a nice little 8 game win streak, but that looks pretty abnormal in the rear view mirror after 4 straight losses (5 of 6), doesn't it?

But Arizona? A playoff team? I know they have Justin Upton, who's really good, and that guy who used to pitch for the A's, but beyond that, ???? This is not a team that won the division, it is a bunch of guys that outlasted a bunch of losers. The dbacks seem to play the game of baseball quite competently. They move runners, get hits with RISP, steal bases and do not allow too many stolen bases. They also play defense well. No wonder some mediocre pitcher has 21 wins. The Giants, by contrast, spent 2011 not moving runners, especially with RISP, and sought to reinforce our wonderful pitching by hiring an aging, defensively-challenged shortstop with no bat and then going out and getting a worse one when he got hurt. The Giants have pitched well, but otherwise have not had a particularly stellar defensive year, and they have just been horrible offensively, as has been well documented and deeply felt by every Giants fan. so the dbacks are what's left. Sad.

Meanwhile, I tune in Saturday, and the dbacks have "Los D-Backs" on their jersey and apparently it is Hispanic heritage night in Arizona. WTF? Isn't this the state that is trying its darndest to advance racism? Especially against Hispanics? Haven't they already done an English-only thing? If you bought a Los D-Backs jersey, would you be immediately arrested as you left the stadium, your car confiscated and either deported or sent to work in the desert on one of Joe Arpaio's slave labor details? Never let it be said that Arizona lacks in hypocrisy.

Maybe I've used up my wishes, but if I get one for the 2011 baseball season, just get this team out of my sight as quickly as possible. I root for anyone against them.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Well, that's a relief

I was getting tired of running out the string on the seemingly endless and highly improbable playoff scenarios. It is now mercifully over. Arizona put us all out our collective misery last night with a 3-1 win that looked a lot like the kinds of wins the Giants got last season. Bully for them. They won fair and square. I'm not a sour grapes sort of fellow (anymore, that is, middle age has its benefits) and have no problem saying "congratulations" to the new NL West champions. A lot of things went wrong in the 2011 title defense. Buster. More DL. Still more DL. Belt-gate. RISP-death. You name it, it happened. At the same time, the pitching was awesome and the Panda re-emerged from hibernation. It would be nice if the team could win a few ballgames before the end. Score a few runs. Not get Cained again. We'll see. As I type this, the Braves are losing. Please win. 'Cold turkey' is the best way to get clean, isn't it?

Sharpen your offseason digital pencils, mates. We'll have to get things figured out for 2012, eh? No hurry, though. I'm tired and I'm going to take a break.

--M.C.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Keepin' up appearances

It was one of those painful lessons you had to learn as a kid. You know, you'd be pissed off at some kid stuff or at your parents or somesuch and yet you had to bottle it all up inside and comb your fucking hair and button your goddamn shirt and still smile and shake hands and say "fine" and "good" and "thank you" and all the rest of the polite shite that was expected of you when all you really wanted to do was kick someone or break something and tell the world to "eat shit and die." Remember? That's what this feels like. The Giants are done. Don't talk to me about the Wild Card. Four games out with six to play? Yeah, I believe it is possible for both St. Louis and Atlanta to take a massive double-dump and give the club and opening. Here's the rub, though--the Giants would still have to win a shitload of games. You could have a sumo wrestler-sized offensive line who could open a hole you could slide a Winnebago through and hand the goddamn ball to this team and they'd fall down after a two-yard gain and then get penalized for illegal motion. You see? I'm resorting to fecking football metaphors! It's over. The fat lady hasn't sung--yet--but she will, and the sooner the better from where I'm sitting. I said all those nice things about MadBum and he looked like crap. That's OK, I'm sticking by what I wrote. He's going to open some eyes next year.

They moved up Cain to tonight's game.

--M.C.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Seven games to go

The Giants earned their ninth win over the Dodgers last night and can secure the season series with a win today. The D-backs also won and their magic number is down to two. They'll only need to win one game this weekend to clinch the West (they are off today). I heard some talk that Matt Cain would get moved up to pitch Friday night in Phoenix, but the website still says it is Eric Surkamp. If so, perhaps Ol' Boch is offering him up as the sacrificial lamb so Kirk & Co. can get the dog-piling and champagne-spilling over with ASAP. That's OK by me. All that's left for the Giants is a long, long shot at the Wild Card (3-1/2 back), but we've all stuck our forks in them already, so I can live with dropping the pretense. They had a nice run and earned back some respectability. With two more wins they can guarantee themselves second place. Not bad for the worst offense in baseball.

If Cain pitches Friday, he'll get the last start of the year on Wednesday at home against the Rockies. If he goes Saturday, he'll be done, and the rookie will get the call for game 162. We know what Matt can do, perhaps it is best to give the youngster another real-time audition before next spring. Tim Lincecum gets his final start of the year on Sunday. Ryan Vogelsong, who looks a little ragged and run-down at this point, would then get the Monday game at home. 172-2/3 IP is his career high, so I'm not surprised he's gassed. All the better to prep him for a full season in 2012. Madison Bumgarner goes today, and gets his last start on Tuesday at home. That will be 33 starts and over 200 IP for the super southpaw.

GO GIANTS! BEAT LA!

--M.C.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Deja' Screwed Tim

Again?  Really?  Isn't there a chance that was a replay?  I swear I saw that game before. 

Clayton Kershaw outdueled Tim Lincecum ONCE AGAIN and trashed our lovely winning streak with his 20th victory, 2-1.  That was the frigging FIFTH time he has beaten us ths year, four times against Tim.  Get's old.

Tell you what else has gotten real old: giving Timmeh no support. That was the 20th time in 32 starts that he has received 2 or fewer runs! Eleven of his thirteen losses have come from getting one or less runs of support.  Lincecum clearly wins the "Cained" Award this year.  Only one poor bastard (Doug Fister) has gotten less run support in all of baseball. 

Snakes lost, but Atlanta and St. Louis won.  Our chances are also getting old. And very tired.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!

That was the day for Giants hitters. SIX homers! They smacked the ball all over the place. They had a season-high eight-run inning which featured FOUR homers (two by the Panda). They hadn't hit four in an inning since 1961. Even Matt Cain got in on the act with a two-run bomb. Both Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford hit dingers. Mike Fontenot blasted a massive homer to start things off in the first inning. And Pablo Sandoval was ridiculous! (He was impressive with the glove as well.) The Giants sweep the Rockies by scoring 8, 9, 6 and 12 runs (35!) in the four games. Besides the absurd offensive explosion, the other noteworthy aspect of today's game is that Cain did NOT get a quality start. Considering he leads the NL in that category (and is second in baseball to ├╝ber-aces Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver) I think it qualifies as news. He did, however, manage to get a decision, the good one (you know, the "W" kind), and that puts his record at 12-10 for the season. It was a hard, ugly slog for the big righty. He walked guys and hit guys and was in trouble every inning, allowing 11 baserunners. It is always a tough day when Joe "Joke" West is behind the plate. This guy has been umpiring since I was a senior in high school and he is an embarrassment to the profession. I try not to complain about the umpires as most of them do an amazing job. But Mr. West is too much a part of any game he officiates when his job is exactly the opposite of that--not to get noticed. He had one of his inexplicable, random strike zones that shrunk and expanded at his whim. Matty is the kind of guy who relies on corner strikes to be effective and he seemed to get squeezed from the first inning. (To be fair, all good pitchers need to command the corners.) Certainly the Giants benefited from Esmil Rogers and his quartet of relievers having to pump balls down the middle, but it doesn't stop me from spilling digital ink about it. Joe West needs to retire and get replaced by a proper umpire who has read the rule book. And that's all I have to say about that.

Giants get another win and now have their longest streak of the season (eight games). Maybe it is too little, too late, but it sure is fun. With Atlanta losing today that puts them four back in the Wild Card race with nine to play. Unfortunately the Cardinals (who play tonight) are still in the mix and the Diamondbacks won their game against the Padres. That puts their magic number at five, so Arizona are masters of their own destiny at this point. The series in LA coming up this week will be epic as you know the Dodgers would love to play spoiler and end the Giants season before the Arizona series this weekend. Tim Lincecum gets the call Tuesday, so we get to see our best guy against both clubs.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Greatest Giants' Theme Song Ever (1978)

Lots of great player references in this one:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVXjt20SWUQ

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rollin' sevens

Giants come up with another big win and make it seven in a row. The last time the team won seven straight was in June, their best month. They played .607 ball (17-11) then, allowing only 93 runs in the 28 games (3.32 per game). Here in September the club has found some new life and some new heroes and boasts an impressive 10-5 record with 69 runs scored against 45 allowed. Brett Pill is 'serving notice' that he's in the mix with a gaudy .857 slugging percentage. His triple (the second of the night for him) off Huston Street in the 8th inning was the big hit. Eric Surkamp had control problems and couldn't get out of the 5th, but he hung tough and did not give up the ghost. Colorado is a tough place on breaking balls but the youngster kept throwing them because that's what he's got. And I can't complain about that. Live or die with your best stuff.

Giants are five back in the West and the Wild Card with ten games left to play. Their elimination number in both races is six. Matt Cain gets the ball tomorrow.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Lucky us

Madison Bumgarner was 2-8 on June 9th. He's 12-12 now. We all knew the W-L record did not reflect the performance of the young lefty. Last Hallowe'en MadBum threw a game for the ages in the World Series and forever endeared himself to Giants fans. Like his teammate Matt Cain, the national audience has yet to appreciate his greatness. That's fine. Tim Lincecum can handle the spotlight-grabbing duties for the club. We get to watch them slay opponents with regularity, and if the rest of the baseball world can't enjoy it, too bad for them. MadBum is a mere 22 years of age and doesn't get to his fourth and final year of arbitration until 2016. I think we are going to see a lot of our super southpaw.

Lucky us.

--M.C.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cyclo-Panda

It's always a fun night when Pablo Sandoval puts on a show. He's the antithesis of Carlos Beltran, who is one cool cat and never breaks a sweat. Can you imagine Beltran with pine tar on his helmet or his uniform crumpled and soiled? Never. Can you imagine the Panda intent and contemplative on the bench? Impossible. One of the things I like most about baseball is the variety of characters who populate the field, and the differences in style and temperament the game seems to accept. I like the large variation in physical types as well. In baseball you get everything from Mike Fontenot (5'-8", 165 lbs.) to Kyle Blanks (6'-6", 270 lbs). Take a look at any soccer team--everyone is the same (other than the keeper). They are all six feet tall and 13 stone as the Brits would say. American football selects for freakish size, as does basketball. Take a look at Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (throw in Novak Djokovic as well)--they are clones! Baseball is one of the few sports where the athletes don't have to look like they just stepped out of a Tour de France commercial. Thank Bog And All His Holy Angels And Saints for that, eh?

Ryan Vogelsong labored, but hung tough and got big outs despite having some command issues. I like that guy and I think he's going to give the club 200 innings next year. Brandon Crawford looked great at the plate, and Brandon Belt got some late redemption with a lovely opposite-field bomb in his final AB. He'd looked awful before that. Let's see these guys every day, dammit!

Five wins in a row comes a bit late for the playoff hunt, but it will certainly help keep the Dodgers in third place, which makes me happy. LA is seven back in the win column and six back in the loss column with 13 to play. Giants have an even dozen left with three in the LAtrine next week. Finish strong, lads. Speaking of teams with an ownership crisis, who knew the Giants would have this ugly falling out with Bill Neukom? If you saw any of the press conference it was obvious that he was very upset and was biting his tongue and mouthing the usual press conference jibber-jabber instead of saying anything substantive. I'm just a humble schoolteacher and have never worked in the corporate world, so I have no fucking clue what the culture is like and what actually goes on in boardrooms. I do know that multi-millionaire businessmen, like professional athletes, aren't regular joes. They see the world through a different set of lenses than we do. So who the hell knows what went on? I suspect it will be some time before we get all the facts--if ever. I do think dumping the guy who presided over the long-sought World Series title is tacky. "Nice job, Billy, now scram." At the same time, Larry Baer was both Peter Magowan's and Neukom's right-hand man, so if anyone is "up to speed" and ready to run with the ball it is him. In that sense, I'm not going to fret too much about the games the suits play. This off-season was going to be a real test for ownership and management anyway, what with the looming cost of keeping the core together and the need to improve the lineup. The farm system is still being run by the same guys and the scouting department is still intact. There's still Boch & Sabes (for better or for worse). I'm still here, too.

--M.C.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bad, Very Bad

Not to step on Mr. Parsons and his excellent post on the praiseworthy Tim Lincecum, but I fear the worst as a result of the news that Giant's ownership is forcing Bill Neukom out as CEO and as a partner. He will step down at the end of this year. Here is the simple equation: Without Neukom, no World Championships, with Neukom, World Championship. More to the point, however, is that I do not understand how a fractious ownership can continue to support the team that won the World Series. Is the split over money (Giants payroll up 25%) or, as the Chron claims, lack of communication? Or maybe a little of both. In any case, the ownership (apparently, no one owns a majority stake, apparently Mr. Neukom did not even own the largest stake) did not seem satisfied with the direction Mr. Neukom was taking the team and the manner in which he was doing it. Dissatisfied after winning a World Series! And with a streak of 2011 sell-outs at the park, merchandise flying off the shelves, split-gate revenue undoubtedly up, advertising revenue up (although probably not as much as in a better economy), all kinds of extra tv shows, with their accompanying revenue! Not to mention acquisition of development rights to the land just south of Mission Creek and McCovey Cove, worth zillions. (Have you seen UCSF Mission Bay and the other the development along the Third Street corridor?)

The Chronicle also reported that Mr. Neukom's stake would be sold to investors. We can only hope that the investors are Giants fans, but I am bothered by the plural. More investors, means more consensus building is necessary, meaning that the team is to be run increasingly by committee, rather than by leadership and vision. More investors means more time to make a decision. Will the Giants be able to bid for free agents when the asking price gets a little high, or will they have to convene the numerous members of the executive committee to talk about it? "Oops! someone else signed 'em while we dither." And maybe the investors will not be Giants fans, maybe they will be investors. Not as though that hasn't ever happened (see: LA). Should we dig a little deeper to keep our pitchers AND Buster Posey? "Wait, let me run the numbers to calculate ROE/ROI - gee, the margins seem to be dropping - so, No."

Maybe the owners will be content to let baseball people run the club. But I doubt it. Look at the recent history. There seemed to be a major shift in the club's direction when Mr. Neukom took over. We went from long term contracts for celebrities to shorter contracts (a good thing!). He generated "The Giants Way" which stressed athleticism, among other things. I have previously tried to make the case that we need to spend to keep our core pitchers together. We have a very good - no, excellent pitching staff going into next year with Wilson, Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner and Vogelsong. Wilson, Cain and Lincecum are expensive, they are either expensive with us or with another team. We have some great relievers that are not too expensive, so even if we keep a couple of the more expensive guys, like Lopez, we still have an excellent group without too great a cost. We have Posey and Sandoval for not too much money, not to mention the up and coming youngsters like Belt and Crawford and Stewart. We need to supplement the hitters, whether with Beltran or with someone else, but it is not like we need a complete re-do of almost all the positions.

The Giants have the opportunity, with one World Series under their belts, to be great for at least most of a decade, in spite of the big, injury-aided stumble this year. It will cost money to do so. It sounds to me like the "lack of communication" explanation is a way of saying that the reasons are not to be divulged so as not to make the ownership look bad. Baseball is a business. Business owners get kicked out when investors lose money, or when they create some impression that investors will lose money in the future. It also sounds to me like the team, just past the height of their success, is anticipating a poorer future. I do not understand why unless they simply plan to go cheap. Welcome to Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sweepy Tim

Did you say "Sweep"?
What? The floor? Well, I suppose, but I usually do that on the weekend....and its more like a vacuum than a broom.
Excuse me, what's that? OOOOHHHH. That kind of sweep!

Hell, yes...the good kind of sweep, as in: Tim Lincecum and Carlos Beltran carried the Giants to victory today against the puds, 3-1, and completed the beleaguered team's first series sweep since the Pleistocene. Timmeh was in good form (game score 71) and he got just enough help to pick up his thirteenth win, against 12 losses.

 7 innings......4 hits (3 doubles!)........1 unearned run........2 walks.............6 strikeouts

Lincecum must be thankful every time he gets to face San Diego. His domination of them this year is a big reason why Tim's stats are still looking pretty sweet, even if it is clearly not his best season. He improved to 9-4 with a 1.96 ERA lifetime against San Diego, which includes a blistering 4-1, 1.64 this year. Just think how bad off we would be if the puds were any good??

Mat Latos would probably tell you that the Giants' acquisition of Beltran was worth every penny and we should try to keep him. Truly, without Carlos drilling career homers #299 and #300 the Giants and Tim were staring at another disgusting loss. But should we go after him? Definitely not, in my opinion. Wrong position, wrong age, wrong injury risk, wrong agent/price. That is a couple too many wrongs for me. If we can't do better than that on the free agent market, like only two wrongs, then we are screwed.

p.s. Sorry for the rather extended absence from the blogging scene. I was shanghaied by some crazy Pyrates and forced to build a ship. A beautiful ship, I might add. Long story...if you are good I'll tell you sometime.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Matt Cain shows emotion and gets yanked

I know it was the 7th inning and the pitch count was over 100, but I had more faith in Matt Cain at that moment than anyone in the bullpen. And the Giants have a good bullpen. I don't argue much with Ol' Boch, he knows his guys, but I would rather have watched Cain pitch to those clowns than either J-Lo or WillyMo. Alas, he managed a no-decision, which I'm on record as favoring. I'm convinced that Matty got yanked when he cursed to himself after walking James Darnell. The rookie was having at party at Cain's expense and I've no doubt it pissed him off. But Matt is all about sangfroid and Ol' Boch is all about what we call here in America same thing. So when he saw Mr. Cool lose his cool, it was time to cool him out. It wasn't Ol' Boch's fault the normally stalwart bullpen gave up back-to-back doubles to tie the game and raise it to new and soaring heights of anguish. I'm tired and want to go to bed. Please win, Giants.

--M.C.



UPDATE 0640 Wed: Giants win in 12!! Once again, the tried-and-true extra-inning formula of "wait until the other team uses their worst pitcher" works to perfection. It amazes me that DeRosa is actually playing and hitting well. I'm impressed by his resolve. I thought he was going to have to hang up his cleats, but he battled back. His $6M comes off the books next year as he's a free agent. Arbitration looms for Lincecum, Sandoval, Romo, Vogelsong, Ramirez, Casilla, Torres, Keppinger, Fontentot, and Schierholtz--should be an interesting off-season. Lopez, Mota, Burrell, Cabrera, Beltran, and Ross are all free agents. Rowand gets his last paycheck ($13.6M for 2012) and Zito still has $46M coming. Giants have a lot of decisions to make!

I can't wait for the torture to stop but I'll miss it when it's gone

Despite scoring a week's worth of runs (16!) in two games I think we all ought to remember what got the Giants here in the first place, and that's run prevention. Only FOUR runs allowed in those same two games! That's what winners are built from. The Giants allowed FIVE runs in the two games previous to those two, with all too predictable results, namely back-to-back losses. In the two games previous to those two, they gave up SIX runs, and you know what happened--they won both games. OK, so my thesis needs some polishing. In the two games previous to those two, they gave up ELEVEN runs. And lost both. You see? There's a masters degree in their somewhere, I can feel it.

Eric Surkamp is one of those guys that even on his best days will fail to inspire confidence or even joy. He's a soft-tossing southpaw, not his fault that he clung to his umbilical with a changeup grip (left-handed, natch), and as a result he relies on mesmerizing hitters with slowballs and slower balls. Breaking stuff, too. Looks like he has major-league whatchamacalit, I forget the arcane term the scouts down in the Sally League use, but he's got it. Something to do with alligators--or was it kudzu? (It sounds like schadenfreude but with a French accent.) The South is a mystery. I think he should invent a pitch and call it the "Surkie." It starts out like a curveball but morphs into a changeup as it crosses the plate. I will say I saw a lot of weak contact last night. The Padres got six doubles on infield grounders, but NO RUNS. That's what I'm talkin' about!

Pablo Sandoval hit a home run on a ball that was low and outside, out of the zone, and he had to lunge for it. Yet it soared majestically into the LF bleachers (he was hitting left-handed). Strange dude, that Pablo. Generations of ballplayers are trained not to swing at such shite, but this guy comes along and gets homers with pitches like that. It's a poverty-in-Venezuela thing, as a child you get cat wishbones to gnaw on for major holidays, so when you see choice cuts of prime rib you pass. "No thanks, I'll suck the marrow out of these tiny, brittle bones instead! Delicious!" Now there's a thesis.

--M.C.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Well, that's something

The Giants got a bunch of extra-base hits and a pile of runs and beat the Dodgers to cling to second place and a shred of dignity. Madison Bumgarner got a win despite laboring with 100+ pitches in five innings of work. I'm not sure what I would have done if the team had been swept. This is crunch time--LA is only 3/1/2 back! I realize that once the playoff prize is gone any consolation award (like second place) is meaningless, but it will make the off-season a hell of a lot more pleasant if the Giants finish ahead of the Dodgers. So c'mon, Giants, win some goddamn games!! And hang on to second and some self-respect. Rookie Eric Surkamp gets the call against the Padres tomorrow.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two runs in three games

I was happy to see Ryan Vogelsong get the Willie Mac Award on Friday night. You can't, apparently, give it to Matt Cain every year, even though he probably leads in all the inspirational studliness categories. And Veteran Savvy Clutchness as well. If you aren't a grizzled vet after 200 starts then I want a ruling. "Point of order, Mr. Selig, point of order!" Nonetheless, Vogie was my pick all along and he deserved it. He toughed out a hard-luck start tonight and deserved better, but that sort of thing is everyday fare for Giants pitchers. Get used to it. "A run? A goddamn run? Fer chrissakes, ya think we work miracles around here?"

Friday night's game, that travesty of baseball justice, was the 144th of the season for San Francisco. It was thus the end of the 8th inning as 8 x 18 = 144. The first three innings went like this: 10-8, 10-8, 9-9. The next three innings went like this: 10-8, 11-7, 11-7. We had reason for optimism. But the regression gods just couldn't help themselves, and the Pythagorean beast finally chased the team down and gnawed out its guts. The 7th inning was 6-12, and that was enough. Follow that with 8-10 in the 8th inning and it's "stick a fork in 'em" time. The Giants start their final push, the last 18 games, the 9th inning of 2011 with a decidedly noticeable thud. That feeble display you saw tonight was against Dana Eveland, Cy Young candidate.

--M.C.

Kershawed Tim

Clayton Kershaw continued his mastery of the Giants with another make-them-look-silly start. Once again Tim Lincecum was the victim. Giants get Cained in back-to-back games and manage to sandwich in an off-day as well. It makes for a real downer stretch. I really want to see the club hold on to second place, finish strong, and hang on to a bit of pride. Giants are making it tough on me. Kershaw deserves serious Cy Young Award consideration. I expect Roy Halladay will be the overwhelming favorite--you could make a case for him as MVP--but the Dodger lefty is as good as they get. I keep thinking the Giants will get to him at some point, but it looks like they'll have to do it in 2012. I told my lovely bride during dinner before the game that the Giants would be "lucky to avoid getting no-hit." Not only is Kershaw doing everything right this season, Giants hitters are the worst in baseball. It's not a combination that encourages confidence. The Jeremy Affeldt injury is just another karmic consequence of winning the World Series. The baseball gods have made the Giants, their fans, and my friends and loved ones pay a stiff price for all that pent-up joy and blissful celebrating. I know, I know, it is post hoc ergo propter hoc to assume such a connection, but I'm looking for meaning, even logically fallacious meaning, in the heaping pile of rotten luck that's come our way. OK, that's enough whingeing from this lad. After all, they are still sporting those lovely shoulder patches and I've got multiple photos of me standing next to that lovely trophy. 2012 seems like it ought to be a Giants kind of season, what with The Apocalypse and all on the agenda.
--M.C.


p.s. I'm typing this on an iPad, sitting on the couch in the living room (listening to the SF Opera). Cute gizmo. Very slick. Not exactly suited to this task, but a neat little device anyway.

Bekershawed Tim

Tim pitched damn well last night in what was perhaps, for me, the most deflating loss of the year. Kershaw has consistently beaten us and we had him albeit by the slimmest of margins. In the eighth, Tim had Kemp swinging at a ball that would have bounced on the front of home plate for strike three. Instead, a "hit" that could not have even been called a dying quail. More like a little turd that a quail leaves just before it dies. The ball dribbled about one-quarter of the way down the third base line and did not roll foul while the Giants stood around watching it. The worst of luck. Then, a steal of second and a passed ball to allow a speedy runner who has no other discernible baseball skills to take third, and didn't you just know that this game would be tied? Can anyone inform me why we substitute Whiteside for Stewart? Doesn't this passed ball/can't throw out a runner kind of thing happen just about every time we do? For what, a .205 average as opposed to a .199 batting average? Yeah, then a two-out hit for a tied game. The Giants scored in the first, and got damn few hits after that against Kershaw, none of them out of the infield. Perhaps it is atonement for the hubris of believing that our pitching could carry us in spite of a totally shit offense. I'll leave that thread to MOC, who believes in that stuff. By the way, fuck Eugenio Velez.

The Chron on Friday carried an article by Henry Schulman about arbitration-eligible and free agent Giants, speculating on whom would or would not be on the team next year. It is here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/09/SP9I1L1S75.DTL. The free agents are Beltran, Ross, DeRosa, Burrell and Cabrera among hitters, and Affeldt, Lopez and Mota among pitchers. Arbitration-eligible hitters are Torres, Keppinger, Fontenot, Schierholtz, Sandoval, Whiteside and Burriss, and there are plenty of pitchers: Lincecum, Sanchez, Ramirez, Casilla, Romo and Vogelsong. First, before getting into this discussion, the Giants absolutely must keep the core of pitchers together. The Atlanta Braves went to the playoffs, what, 11 straight years on the backs of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, and they paid a higher percentage of their total salary to their pitching staff than any other team. The Giants must keep Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner and Wilson (assuming he is not permanently injured, and he doesn't seem to be) on the team, anyone who thinks that one of them might be traded for a big, big bat is an idiot. Vogelsong pretty well played himself into a must have, hasn't he? The relievers are more problematic, because they absolutely necessary, but may be replaceable. A big, big reason that we won the World Series is because of Ramirez, Lopez, and yes, Affeldt, Mota, Casilla and Romo. Romo is the must-have out of the group, and probably one of the least expensive must-haves. You need Mota and Casilla or someone like them, and you need Affeldt (currently out due to a kitchen accident). Among hitters, Sandoval is the must-have. Cabrera is a net detriment at any price, DeRosa, Ross, Fontenot and Burrell rate a "meh" at best. I like what Keppinger has added, don't know if he can play short, but if he can, he is a far better acquisition than Fontenot. Beltran would be great, depending on the length of contract and the price, unfortunately, someone might offer him 5 years plus and option, and I'm thinking it would be the White Sox (it would be the Mets, but they did that already with him, they wouldn't be dumb enough to do it twice, would they?). Whiteside is a waste of time, and why anyone thinks that Burriss is a major league baseball player is beyond me. Ditto Ford, unless you want a really fast guy for baserunning and don't mind that he has been thrown out almost as many times as he has stolen a base (5 vs 6). Which brings us to Torres. It seems like the Giants fully intend to go into the offseason totally unsure about which Torres is real, the 2010 Torres or the 2011 Torres. So they will either give him raise and regret it or not offer him arbitration and regret it. I like Schierholtz much better, but that means we need a lead-off guy (or maybe, keeping Torres would still mean we need a lead-off guy). I don't know yet if Christian is that guy. Jimmy Rollins, Philly free agent and Bay Area native, could be that guy, solving the SS vacancy with a competent glove, but NOT IF IT MEANS THE LOSS OF OUR CORE PITCHERS. Neither Beltran, Rollins, Pujols or any other hitter is worth that.

Sorry about the lack of hyperlinks. I am too pissed about last night.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

200 starts, 68 wins

My tank is empty. Matt Cain pitched well and lost. It's such a tired story--I can't do it any more. I have nothing to say except that he should know better than to give up late runs. I mean run. Will Venable hit a leadoff home run and then the Padres got zero hits until two out in the 6th, when they got two and scored the go-ahead run. That was the game. Like I said, Matt Cain should know better. He should have been happy with a tie (thank you, Brett Pill). The 'no-decision' is a respectable stat. C'mon, Matt, shoot for those NDs from now on. And speaking of Brett Pill, I'm happy for the guy, but I really think the Giants first baseman of the future is Brandon Belt. And the future is now. Let's see some more of the Baby Giraffe. And Crawford, too. Let's see some more Brandon Crawford. Please, no more Orlando Cabrera. He is not an upgrade over Miguel Tejada, a man who was just served his walking papers. I'd feel better about the wretched state of the Giants offense if it was a bunch of youngsters struggling to hit real pitching instead of an over-the-hill gang coming up waaaaaaay short in the Veteran Savvy Clutchness department.

The Giants are 3-7 in Cain's last ten starts. He's thrown 70-2/3 innings, given up 54 hits, 26 runs, and 18 walks. He's struck out 50 and has 164 on the season (his career high is 186). He's 5th in the NL in WHIP, 1st in Quality Starts, and 3rd in OPS against. He now has five straight 200 IP seasons which ties him with Jim Barr and Jack Sanford on the all-time SF list. Only Juan Marichal (10) and Gaylord Perry (6) have more. Cain will pass Sanford (211) and Barr (220) in starts next season, and has Mike McCormick (252), Kirk Rueter (277), Perry (283), and Marichal (446) still ahead.

--M.C.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Career-high Ks for MadBum!

If the Giants aren't going to finish in first place then I want second place, goddammit. No late season death spirals that drop the team into mediocrity, thank you very much. It's a small thing, I know, but I'd like to see the lads finish strong, proudly displaying their World Series Champion shoulder patches for another few weeks. No shame in coming up short, especially with all the injuries and assorted bad things that have beset the 2011 club. And more of the Brandons, please. I want to see Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford every day for the rest of the year. We know what the old guys can do, let's give the young 'uns all the reps they can handle, whaddya say? I'd love to see both Brandons as the starters next season, but we know that's a bit of a problem for Boch & Sabes. Aubrey Huff, unless Belt hits .600 in the spring, will get the nod at first base to start the season. As he fades the youngster will take over and be the everyday guy in the second half. Or something like that. These stories are already written, aren't they? Nothing new here. Crawford is on the fast track, they are going to send him to the Fall League for more playing time, but whether they will plug him to the full-time 2012 job with an under-developed bat seems unlikely. I say bat him 8th and let him save runs with his glove, but the team is absolutely stocked with 8th-place hitters and the pressure on the Brian Trust to improve the wretched offense will be extra-huge this off-season. They can always scrape another Miguel Tejada or Orlando Cabrera off the scrap heap, and they just might do that if Crawford isn't ready. Yuck. No thanks. No more of that, please. Get ready, Brandon, I can't take another season of tortoises in a hare's position.

Madison Bumgarner had another great game today. FanGraphs says he's second on the club with 4.7 WAR. Damn. The Giants have Tim and Matt and MadBum. Damn! (And Dirty and Vogie, too.) The Phillies may have the best pitching in baseball this season, but the Giants are going to be the best next season (just like they were in 2010). And you know something? I'm already salivating over a Posey-Panda 3-4 punch. Pablo Sandoval is putting it all back together after last year's struggles and this year's injuries. He just turned 25 and has over 1800 ML PAs. I think this kid has a bright future, don't you? The news from Camp Buster is all good, too. Can't wait to see him back behind the plate again. In the meantime, let us appreciate what a rare gem we have with our super sophomore southpaw. He goes all Steve Carlton on you with the fastball and the strikeouts, then he throws in a little Jamie Moyer lefty-slurvy shite, too, adding to the batters' befuddlement. He's only 22 and will just top 50 career starts by the end of this season. Did I say "bright future" somewhere in this post?

Happy Labor Day!

--M.C.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Giants collapse

All Arizona had to do in this series was avoid being swept. They managed that yesterday. Today they hung around until Ryan Vogelsong made a mistake. Then the Giants bullpen threw the game away and the season as well. The D-backs came to town in front by six and leave in front by seven. Vogie had a great start but couldn't nail down the last few outs. I have no complaint with Ol' Boch sticking with him. With a crippled 'pen he gave us just as good a chance to win as anyone else. I'm happy he had a great start. On many other clubs that would have been an easy win. The home team couldn't get it going with the bats--a familiar refrain for 2011.

Giants pitchers battled heroically all season but could not overcome their offensive handicap. Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner were all stalwart performers. We know how special that group is and there's still Jonathan Sanchez waiting in the wings! Vogelsong saved the team early in the year with a long run of quality innings and has earned his spot in the rotation. He showed today that he still has it despite the worries over his recent loss streak and the wear-and-tear due to his increased workload. Injuries to Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson stretched the relief corps out too thinly and the cracks started to show. Even before the injury The Bearded One was not as dominant as he had been the previous two seasons, but I'm not complaining, he was still damn good. With any hitting at all the team would have been right in the middle of the playoff mix and would have had just as good a shot as Philadelphia, Atlanta, or Milwaukee to go to the Series.

Alas, it looks like the D-backs are on their way. The magic number for them is 16. They were the better team today, this weekend, and the entire second half of the season. I hate writing an obit with 22 games left in the season for a team not mathematically eliminated, but there it is. On to San Diego with MadBum tomorrow and the rookie on Tuesday.

--M.C.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Snakebit Tim

Tim Lincecum took the hill tonight in San Francisco with his long, dark locks and his tall, black socks and pumped 95-mph fastballs to the first batter and struck him out. It was an auspicious beginning. Unfortunately the Diamondbacks had other ideas. They raked the Freak for nine hits including five doubles and a home run in his five-plus and put an emphatic stamp on the NL West race. The Giants worked starter Ian Kennedy for 64 pitches in the first three innings but could only manage one run. He settled down after that and got quick outs while his teammates added on. Kennedy is undefeated this season against division foes. Rookie phenom Paul Goldschmidt made himself into Timmy's personal nemesis by blasting a massive home run to take the lead in the 4th and stroking an RBI single in the 5th to make it 3-1 for the front-runners. This guy hit his first big league bomb off the Franchise on August 2nd, a two-run shot to give the D-backs a lead they would not relinquish. They won that game 6-1 and tied the Giants for first place in the standings that night. They've been on fire since then, going 18-11 while the Giants stumbled to 12-17. Carlos Beltran had another perfect night at the plate but was thrown out at second on a stupid play in the 8th, the Giants scoring on a sacrifice fly by Pablo Sandoval, his second of the night. The Panda was 0-4 last night and hitless again tonight. The D-backs show no sign of loosening their grip on the lead as the Giants are six back once again. With only 23 games left to play the math looks mighty grim.

--M.C.



p.s. JC, hope you had fun, mate. Watching the team ace fall flat in the biggest game of the year was not. Fun, that is. I'm assigning you Tuesday night's game against the Padres. That's Eric Surkamp's turn.


Cain and Beltran lead the way

Carlos Beltran finally delivered the kind of game The Brian Trust was hoping for when they pulled off the trade at the end of July. Three hits from the right side and one from the left, he drove in three of the team's first four runs, hitting a two-out, two-run homer in the 3rd to give the Giants the lead and knocking home Matt Cain (who had gritted out a leadoff infield hit) with a one-out single in the 5th to seal the deal. He had a workout in right field as well, making five putouts, a couple of throws, and chasing down three extra-base hits. Ryan Roberts hit a drive to right-center in the 5th that just eluded him for a triple. It would have been a damn fine play if he'd managed to close the hands-breadth gap. We've seen Nate Schierholtz catch that very same ball, but we all know Olympic Nate is a magnificent fielder. Beltran made his reputation in center field, and still has some of those moves at age 34, but no one can cover the vast greensward of the foul line to Triples Alley like Schierholtz. Nonetheless, the newcomer had a great night. I like watching him hit, he has such a relaxed stance, great balance, and that smooth, compact swing. He runs with a languid, effortless grace that almost looks like he's not trying very hard. Some guys have a gift for making it look easy. I hope he stays healthy and keeps it up--the Giants need everyone to deliver their best from here on out. Cody Ross put the icing on the cake with a big two-run homer after a Cain walk in the 7th. Last season the Giants hit 162 homers in 162 games. A late-season power surge would be nice.

Matt Cain had a little trouble in the 1st after an infield hit and it took 29 pitches to keep the pesky Diamondbacks from scoring more than just one run. After that he racked up some quick innings and managed to give the team eight strong. He walked four guys which tied his season high. Cain had only walked nine batters in all of August and has 54 for the season (2.3 BB/9, his career best). He's only given up one home run in the second half of the season and a mere eight overall (0.4 HR/9 is also a career best). His average Game Score (last night was a 63) is 59, also a career best. FanGraphs credits him with 5.1 WAR, the best of all the Giants pitchers and, you guessed it, a career high. He's 5th in the NL behind Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. It has been an outstanding season for no. 18, let's hope he keeps it going for the final push.

Big Time Timmy Jim goes today. Giants, realistically, need a sweep. Gaining only one game wouldn't be bad, but gaining three would be a hell of a lot better. This is it! The time is now! GO GIANTS!

--M.C.